Herald: Goa’s less cash economy
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Goa’s less cash economy

04 Jan 2017 11:56pm IST
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04 Jan 2017 11:56pm IST

The Christmas season is over and the New Year is upon us, and before we start the year in earnest let’s recollect the deserts or confectioneries we either prepared or relished, during the festive season gone by.

 Here is a list; Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich. Jelly Bean, Kit Kat, Lollipop, Marshmallow and Nougat. Fine, some of these deserts do not include our Goan delicacies however, they are all relished in different parts of the world especially in the Western hemisphere. 

By now readers might have guessed that the name of the above deserts also happen to be names of the Android mobile operating system versions. They are alphabetical in order and are named on common confectioneries. The first two versions were named Alpha and Beta and then started the fun part of naming Cupcakes and so on. Android is developed by Google along with the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) a consortium of hardware, software and telecommunication companies that promote open standards for mobile computing. Google bought Android for 50 million US Dollars in 2005 and since then have been upgrading their previous versions by fixing old bugs and adding new features. While most upgrades are version numbered they are also named after deserts in a playful manner.

Is Google crazy to shell out 50 million US Dollars to buy Android and mock at the work they do, by naming them in such a lighthearted manner? Easily they could have used some high fancy technical names just to prove they are high thinking nerds and send a message to everybody around, that whatever they develop is not meant for the average mind to understand the mechanics behind it, but to just plainly use it.  Or it is their sincere belief in the quote “What’s in a name…”and the main focus should always be in designing products that will make life easy for its users. After all everybody knows the story that Google original name was Googol, a mathematical term, but was changed because of a misspelling of Googol to Google Inc.

Google is in the business of making life a bit less complicated, those who used search engines before the inception of the Google algorithms will agree that searching on the web was surely not a cakewalk as it is now. In the process of making life easy they found a way to monetise their process and make themselves and their investors wealthy. 

Goa and its politicians recently announced that it was going digital and cashless. Unfortunately our politicians love to bait the media with grand statements just to grab headlines without really understanding the issue thoroughly. Fortunately clarifications were made just on time, and while cashless is not the correct word to use, less-cash might be the appropriate word. In an era of bitcoins, online payment gateways, credit cards, debit cards and so on, circulation of cash is also important and total elimination of cash should never be the ultimate goal. So the next time politicians make grand knee jerk statements, there is no need to take them seriously because they are only putting the cart before the horse. 

Total abolition of cash is also not desirable because of security issues, in an age where computer hacking has gone to scary levels and USA accusing Russia for influencing their country’s all important elections and the recent Russian malware found on a US utility company. A Hollywood movie Die Hard 4 type of scenario can never be ruled out and it’s always desirable to fall back on cash even though it might not be king anymore. Hacking is no more done for just the thrill, but could be the next tool for countries to fight proxy wars by bringing down sophisticated computer systems of each other. 

The Indian banking computers systems might be the best as they make us believe, but the recent black to white money conversion along with some crooked bank staff shows that even their manual systems are much to be desired and susceptible to abuse. The recent ATM numbers exposure in some of our private and public is just a reminder that our computer systems are a lot to be desired. In Europe cyber criminals have remotely hacked into ATM’s and made them spit out cash. Does not mean we shove the idea of going digital, by all means go digital but cash is needed as backup. 

Meantime, if the Government of Goa is really interested in less cash transactions, then change the outdated processes and systems the government follows, as far as dealing with cash is concerned from its citizens and then make statements after completion of the job. Google did not announce they will become the most desired search engine, they actually wrote some smart algorithms and the results are there for the people to see. Even after becoming the best, Google cannot claim it has a complete solution to search everything under the sun even if it is their intention. For example if you plan to make cupcakes at home you still need to mentally remember where you stored all the ingredients in your kitchen, Google cannot do that for you unless you tagged them all and saved the location someplace on the internet. Total cash elimination therefore should never be the aim.

Coming back to the Government of Goa’s decision to go digital, it will have meaning only if all systems are streamlined and downsized simultaneously. No point keeping the grumpy cashier still employed if all transactions are going digital, at least not when the government is on the verge of bankruptcy. Remember most government systems and processes in Goa are kept complicated just to feed the parasites that suck and thrive on our taxes. If less cash is going to be game changing then it should also be able to disrupt the way the government employs. Let’s not be under this false impression that government processes are complicated because they have to be, they are complicated just to intimidate the citizens into thinking that these individuals in the government are some high thinking persons. Once you start designing systems that gets the work done at the convenience of its citizens, most processes will dismantle by itself and then government work will be as easy as making Cupcakes, KulKuls or Neureos maybe even easier.

(The author is a business consultant)

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